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A life of learning and laughter: BSU grad Gene Anderson travels the world extolling magic and the power of laughter

Gene Anderson, a Bemidji State College graduate, entertains the crowd at the Minnesota Newspaper Association convention in January in Bloomington, Minn. FNS File Photo

BEMIDJI — Gene Anderson knew his career path from a young age — learning and teaching. With a few magic tricks thrown in for good measure.

Anderson, a retired executive with Dow Chemical and now a traveling magician and motivational speaker, grew up on a farm outside East Grand Forks, Minn. With brothers in front of him, he knew taking over the family farm wasn’t going to be in the cards.

But that was OK, too, he said. His father, Gerald, always had the philosophy of making sure to have fun and laugh in whatever you do.

Anderson talked about his father’s life advice, as he often does when speaking, at the recent Minnesota Newspaper Association convention in Bloomington.

Now living in Midland, Mich., Anderson said the platform is simple. Through laughter, people are more creative, productive, healthy, and, of course, they have more fun in their lives.

Magic and school

Growing up, Anderson had a passion for two things — magic and science. Both encompass what ultimately became his career path — learning. While magicians learn to disguise what is happening through illusion, scientists learn to reveal the truth through facts, research and testing.

After high school, those interests led him to Bemidji, where he attended Bemidji State College (later BSU) to become a teacher. Which he did after graduating from Bemidji State with a bachelor’s degree in science education. Anderson went on to receive his doctorate in chemistry from the University of Texas and did post-doctoral research at the University of Oslo in Norway. So, he had teaching chops down pat, but he also entered the business world.

Anderson joined Dow Chemical, where he stayed 32 years, eventually rising to the position of Global Director of Research and Development Learning. A long title, Anderson said, but it basically came down to one thing: people are never done learning. In most careers, what a person may have learned in school can be obsolete in as little as three to five years. At Dow, Anderson was tasked with keeping employees motivated to keep learning.

“I’d tell them ‘You are on the cutting edge, and you’re good enough to be doing this, keep doing it,’” he said.

Throughout his life, the allure of magic never left Anderson and he continued to hone his craft. A member of International Brotherhood of Magicians, when Anderson decided to “retire” from Dow, his next career choice was easy, he said. He formed Gene Anderson and Associates, and he has traveled for training seminars, speaking engagements and magic performances to six continents and 21 countries. Magic is a theme throughout. And laughter is important, too, Anderson said.

Anderson’s forte of cutting newspapers into various shapes was a fitting theme for the gathering of journalists at the recent Minnesota Newspaper Association convention. Using his oversized scissors as a surgeon would use a scalpel, Anderson snipped and cut as he relayed stories of how people can be happy, both at home and at work, if they remember to bring laughter into their lives.

While traveling from trade show to convention to colleges to magic performances can be a grind, Anderson said he’s having too much fun to really “retire.”

“I’ll keep doing it as long as they keep calling,” he said.

Matt Cory

Matt Cory is the Editor of the Pioneer. Cory grew up in East Grand Forks and is a graduate of the University of North Dakota. He worked as a reporter, copy editor and editor at the Grand Forks Herald from 1993 to 2013, when he joined the Pioneer as Editor.

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